It got me in the end...Covid.
On 28th December 2022 I became ill with Covid, having through shielding (2020) and a general reclusive lifestyle I have avoided infection for a very long time; fortunately I am fully vaccinated; however, both lungs are infected, the left worse than the right, and I am currently on the slow process of getting better. That accounts for December, January, and February.
Well, the rain continued in this month too; however, we have started the tree work, climbing, lopping, felling to create light and reduce height in a selective process of management; then the rain returned to more or less see November out as far as any more tree work was concerned, and I returned to pressing on with my second manuscript, which is equally important, and equally important to not allow writing to lapse into huge gaps, as the memory and the thread soon begin to suffer; I always keep a summary of each chapter as a reference. It is always fascinating to observe how a story develops in the writing; sometimes one feels just a conduit.
Where did October go...
A month of rain here on the mountain; and shingles that lasted for the first half of October; fortunately the shingles healed in time for my Covid booster: had a reaction to that, chest pains, pains in the lower leg muscles, and pain in the upper arm muscles that gradually subsided over the next few weeks. So October did not go as planned; instead I refurbished part of our bathroom, the original work has lasted very well for thirty-years of daily use, and hopefully the new woodwork and tiling will last another thirty-years - although my son will probably have to undertake that work in the future, as I shall by then either be very aged or very absent.
Where I go in retirement...
That is where do I go with my interests in retirement?
The first thing I would say, is that anyone out there approaching retirement, should plan for a gradual easing into retirement; I have seen people suddenly cut off from their former working life, like a dinghy cut from behind a speeding motor launch: they flounder and swirl lost in the ocean of time suddenly available to them: I remember a former BR Operations Manager who kept turning up on a London Terminal concourse for months after his retirement; within seven years he was passed away, after a lifetime of railway service. If you can retire, and within a short space of time wonder how you ever found the time to go to work, then you must be doing something right, possibly everything right: this is my position now, my time is fully occupied, and I have direction and purpose as full as my working years.
My working life was eclectic and many faceted over five-decades; British Railways formed a core around which many things revolved, as a speciality the wide format of British Railways signalling was at the forefront of knowledge and experience: no longer required after privatization. Artist skills and writing had always been strongly present in childhood, very transferable, especially during my final teaching years on British Railways when producing my own teaching aids put these skills to classroom use: again, no longer required after privatization. Redundancy produces a fear and a shock that has to be overcome; like a bereavement it takes a few years to adjust to the new circumstances, gradually time heals, one develops a new way forward, until today is the new reality and one is no longer afraid, you have found your feet again in a new life, irrespective of your age. You have, as is said today 'reinvented yourself' into a new being.
So today my interests are much as they have been before: railways; railway history; railway signalling; model railways; preserved railways (as an observer only); model aircraft; military modelling; plastic kit modelling; World War Two history; science; medical science; autism: namely Asperger syndrome; writing; painting oils on canvas; vehicle maintenance and preservation; wildlife conservation; preservation of trees and wild flowers; rewilding. I think the list would go on, and I may add to it from time to time; but that is enough for an explanation of eclectic.
Amongst the last mentioned is wildlife conservation: we have nearly an acre of mountain behind the house, it has trees and bushes, and brambles in places, and is home to a large amount of birdlife: during the breeding season we can do nothing with it, due to the huge number of bird nests hidden away everywhere. There are also squirrels, and at night foxes that enter in to look around and leave a calling card. Starting in October this year we resume the management programme to turn this near-acre into a managed wildlife conservation; we began this process in 2021 but had to stop with the 2022 bird breeding season: the birds started early this year and have gone on late, fledglings being observed in mid-September this year. So I shall be busy with chainsaw and other tools, fully occupied during daylight as the nights draw-in toward November and December. If it pours of rain, as it often does here, I shall be inside working on my second manuscript; the dark evenings will also probably be puctuated by a tapping keyboard, sat a few feet away from the Rayburn to keep warm.
Retirement is a process best eased into...
And it was going quite well until the energy price crisis took away the entire value of one of my monthly pension payments; I have had to close my studio because I cannot afford to run the gas boiler, the heat pump, and the general electric costs of the studio this winter; so the studio is mothballed until at least next springtime, the gas boiler is shut down and isolated, the water turned off and drained from the system; the first time in over thirty-years I have had to do this to get through the winter financially.
As for the main house my wife and I are children of the 1950s and 60s so an absence of central heating was normal; the first house I occupied with radiators was in 1988, our plan is to fall back on the resilience of childhood, when you could scratch your name in the ice with your fingernail - that was on the inside of the bedroom window by the way - and revert to a simpler way of life; we got through winter then, even in 63 - although my father did have to pull me by my ankles out of a snowdrift, and we shall get through the winter now; although, I fear many will not, and death toll figures will no doubt be suppressed, and then leaked, and we shall see what the tabloids make of those figures next year. Perhaps the British people will then get the general election they deserve, and should already have had if politics had been honourable.